Making a difference in older person’s health
The number of older people in New Zealand is growing rapidly. Most people aged 65+ years are fit and healthy, but a minority are frail or vulnerable and require high levels of care and disability support. These increased needs usually arise during the last few years of life, or from chronic illness or disability that may have been present for many years.
Community and Public Health is therefore committed to ensuring positive health outcomes for older people in our region. South Canterbury is the only South Island region with more than 15 percent of their population aged over 65.
It is predicted that more than one in 5 people in NZ will be aged over 65 by 2031 and of these one in 8 people will be aged 85 or older. Of significance over the coming decades is the growing proportion of older Māori, Pacific and Asian peoples as well as other ethnic groups.
Keeping your balance with Nymbl
Losing your balance as you age is a big injury risk, so ACC have launched the Nymbl app to help older New Zealanders prevent falls and fractures.
Falls are the most common cause of injury in Aotearoa, making up 39 percent of all claims.
Around 172,000 people aged 65 and over had a fall-related ACC claim last year – that’s 22 percent of that age group.
It’s a big problem, so we’re doing something about it.
Nymbl is a free, fun and easy-to-use app that is fully funded by ACC.
Nymbl is designed to help seniors stay on their feet, combining simple body movements with brain games to challenge both the brain and body.
The app is part of the Live Stronger for Longer programme, which is focused on preventing falls and fractures in older people.
Changes to paid whānau and family care for older people and others
More people can receive paid care from whānau or family members – as a result of recent funding changes. Previously whānau or family members could only be paid as caregivers for people assessed as having high, or very high needs.
Caregivers providing support for whānau or family members who have low or medium needs can now also be compensated for their time and effort.
Te Whatu Ora – Health New Zealand and Te Aka Whai Ora – Māori Health Authority fund this support for:
- older people;
- those with chronic health conditions; or
- people with mental health or addiction issues living in the community.
Visit the Te Whatu Ora website for more information on paid care support, or talk to your family doctor.
Dementia support resources available in Te Reo Māori and Pacific languages
Alzheimers NZ has a set of resources available in eight Pacific languages and te reo Māori to support people and whānau living with dementia in Aotearoa.
The fact sheet explains what dementia is, early symptoms of dementia and where to find more information and support.
It’s available in eight Pacific languages – Samoan, Cook Island Māori, Tongan, Niuean, Fijian, Tokelauan, Tuvaluan and Kiribati.
“Our resources cover many questions people with dementia, their whānau and friends may have,” says Alzheimers NZ advisor Dr Jean Gilmour.
“Knowing what to expect can help people prepare for what is coming, and knowing about what support and services are available is key to living well with dementia.”
These dementia resources can be downloaded from the Alzheimers NZ website.
Alzheimers NZ has also updated the Te noho ora me te mate wareware | Living with Dementia booklet.
Supporting the health and wellbeing of kaumātua in Canterbury
Community and Public Health have set up both monthly Health Hubs and Health Clinics for kaumātua or elders and the wider community to access in Canterbury. A steady stream of kaumātua make good use of the information, resources and advice that is on offer. Kaumātua are empowering themselves, developing awareness and taking responsible action for their own health and wellbeing needs. This includes getting medication advice and having checks for blood pressure, hearing, vision or other medical conditions.
Often further medical care is recommended to address concerns raised by the health checks, such as GP follow-up or specialist referrals. All the Hubs and Clinics include whanaungatanga and laughter over a cup of tea.
New “Life without a car” booklet launched
Age Concern New Zealand and Driving Miss Daisy have released a valuable resource to significantly benefit our country’s older non-driving population.
Many older adults face changing from being active drivers to needing alternative transportation options. Age Concern New Zealand recognises the importance of helping older people maintain their independence, social connections, and mobility at this time of transition.
The “Life without a car” booklet is designed to empower older people and their families with the knowledge they need to make informed decisions about transportation, and mobility options.
The booklet offers practical guidance, tips, and resources for people who may no longer drive or choose not to own a car. It covers topics such as:
- Alternative transportation options, including community transport services;
- Staying socially connected and engaged in the community;
- Managing groceries, medical appointments, and other essential tasks; and
- Safety considerations and tips for pedestrians and passengers.
Staying Safe: Refresher courses for older drivers
Age Concern offers FREE these refresher courses for senior drivers all over New Zealand to help keep older people safe on the roads – with support from Waka Kotahi/ NZ Transport Agency.
The theory-based refresher course is an opportunity for people to re-familiarise themselves with traffic rules and safe driving practices in a friendly and relaxed environment with other older drivers. The course includes information on other transport options available to help keep you mobile for as long as possible – whether behind the wheel or when you stop driving.
Contact one of the following to find out more information on Staying Safe courses in your area:
- Six Principles for Safe Visiting and Social Activities in Aged Residential Care (Ministry of Health 2022).
For more information, contact:
Ph: +64 3 364 1777
Contacts for more information:
Older Person’s Health Specialist Service (CDHB)
Ph: +64 3 337 7899
Age Concern (Canterbury)
Ph: +64 3 366 0903
Elder Care Canterbury
Ph: +64 3 366 5472
Age Concern (Ashburton)
Ph: +64 3 308 6817
Age Concern (South Canterbury)
Ph: +64 3 686 6844
Contact the Elder Abuse Response Service if you are concerned about elder abuse:
- Call the FREE helpline 0800 EA NOT OK (0800 32 668 65);
- Text 5032; or
- Email support[at]elderabuse.nz
Shingles vaccine for older adults
Shingles is a painful rash affecting a particular nerve. It is a long term effect of chickenpox many years after people recover from the disease.
Shingles usually occurs in older people and lasts from 10 to 15 days. The nerve pain can last long after the rash disappears.
A vaccine against shingles (Zostavax) is now free at age 65 in New Zealand.
Advance Care Planning: Having conversations that count
Advance Care Planning (ACP) is the process of thinking about, talking about and planning for future health care and end of life care.
Advance care planning gives everyone a chance to say what’s important to them. It helps older people understand what the future might hold and to say what treatment they would and would not want.
This makes it much easier for families and healthcare providers to know what the person would want – particularly if they can no longer speak for themselves.
Projects promoting social inclusion after the Canterbury earthquakes
Te Mana Ora | Community and Public Health supported two mental wellbeing projects for older people from The Muse Community Music Trust after the 2010/11 earthquakes.
The Rockers of Ages is a singing group for elders and aspiring elders – any age and ability welcome. The group is run by The Muse Community Music Trust.
The Keepsake Singers is for everyone who enjoys singing songs from the past in a fun, friendly atmosphere. The Keepsake Singers is particularly welcoming to older adults and to people experiencing memory loss and dementia.